Unfortunately, faith and reason are now often viewed as total opposites. Science is often said to be the offspring of Reason, and it too is pitted against faith. While this understanding has developed over time, and has been popularized by many from Mark Twain to “new atheists”* like Richard Dawkins, it does not correctly represent the biblical view of what faith is. Biblical faith is not a blind leap into the dark.
Scripturally, one can see what faith means in many passages and verses. John ends the second to last chapter of his Gospel telling the reader(s) that it was written so that they might believe, or have an active trust in, Jesus. When John the Baptist faced doubts, Jesus pointed his disciples to fulfilled prophecy and miraculous evidence to give John some evidence when they returned to him. Miracles authenticated the message and gave evidence to all, but Acts 17 is just one of many passages where we see reasoning used by Christians, within the narrative of the Bible. Here Paul used a philosophical argument, in which reasoning is used as evidence towards a conclusion. Considering the commandment for all Christians in 1 Peter 3:15 regarding being ready to provide an apologetic, a defense for what they believe, it’s clear that even if Christians have blindly leaped and landed into the Christian worldview, they must not stay that way, and must understand why they believe what they do, so that they can defend holding to their convictions.
Belief, too, is an important and misunderstood word. It doesn’t mean a mere mental acknowledgment, but, instead, it refers to the placing of trust in something. I might believe planes exist, but an active trust in them, or a belief with active trust, would be necessary for me to fly in one. True biblical faith is not a blind trust, biblical belief requires more than acknowledgment of something’s existence. Together, these words speak to what we might call, in modern terms, a continuing trust in God and the sacrifice of Jesus for the payment of our sins, and submitting to Him as Lord. This isn’t a very remote concept for us to grasp: paper money is used to represent gold in the bank; now, however, it is only representative, yet we believe that it has value, and we trust its use when paying for our groceries and goods. Ultimately, to reject reason and evidence in faith, one has to fail to worship God with their mind, as Scripture commands.
Even with scriptural encouragement to use evidence, the Church hasn’t always been keen on using outside sources, despite Romans 1 confirming a general revelation given to all. Individuals like Anselm and Abelard were able to push forward and include reasoning more and more within the Catholic Church. Their progress and Anselm’s placing reason behind faith, opened up a door. First, Anselm just sought additional support for the conclusion he already felt he had enough reason to believe; over time, that work continued to grow and eventually developed a focus on general revelation called “natural philosophy” or “natural law.”
If we view divine revelation and general revelation (including science) as two books written by the same author, the two should not conflict. What if they appear to? In the end, something must be wrong, but it doesn’t automatically mean that it is either the Bible or the evidence. Men can have fallible interpretations, and it may be that science leads us to understand that “sunset” is merely perspective, and not a literal description of the sun moving around us. Science, too, could be lacking evidence or be a limited sample size. Scientific conclusions need to be peer reviewed.
Given that general revelation is available to everyone, it should come as no surprise that multiple groups have discovered some truths about the world we live in. In other words, The Bible isn’t necessary to understanding some aspects of the world God created, because people live in it! Regardless of what one’s worldview is, they have to deal with the same reality and try to best explain it. While one should be careful when attempting to draw spiritual truths from others, even those can sometimes be similar, such as remnants of original monotheism**, belief in life after death, or common takes on the Golden Rule. One must never put the outside spiritual claims before the teaching of Scripture, especially if the evidence supports the Christian worldview as having the most explanatory power.
The real issue is not between reason or science and faith, but instead between materialism or naturalism and any worldview that goes beyond the material. Currently, science is full of scientism*** an over emphasis on the empirical, as well as a presupposition that there are no spiritual answers. This attitude merely eliminates a possible answer; it does not solve anything. It isn't science vs. faith, but a philosophy, called scientism, which says that only science can provide an answer, versus a more classical and holistic approach that includes logic and philosophy.
With the growing rebirth of Apologetics, many Christians are learning about evidence that does support the Bible and its claims, as well as the use of more than just science to discover the truth. It’s pointed out often that when materialists**** attempt to use logic, they can’t help but use something that is immaterial — the laws of logic! We necessarily use our God-given minds to reason, and that occurs beyond merely observing and reporting raw science data. Even the claim that we can only use science isn't a scientific claim; it's a philosophical one. Thus, scientism is false, as it is self-defeating.
*New Atheists refer to a group of recent atheists who style is more aggressive and frequently labeled “angry.” They also differ from older atheists as many of them try to hold on to some form of objective morality, thinking there is a real right and wrong, despite having no source for what is right and wrong.
**Original Monotheism refers to the theory, backed by evidence, that early cultures worshipped one God, not many. Typically our students are taught a more “evolutionary approach” to religion, that many gods, got whittled down to one. The historical research of scholars like Winfried Courdan, have shown that while this is commonly said in colleges, and textbooks, the evidence is the exact opposite. Older non-Christian religions can usually be traced back to a singular God, and people slowly devolve to worshiping lower spirits, similar to how many Native American tribes have a greater sky spirit creator, but worship nature spirits instead, or how the Norse had a whole group of Gods like the now popular Thor, but believed there was a single true creator God above all of those.
*** Scientism is the philosophical position that truth is only discovered by science.
****Materialists hold that there is only matter, things we can see, smell, touch, feel etc.
Anselm of Canterbury (1033—1109)
Saint Anselm was one of the most important Christian thinkers of the eleventh century. He is most famous in philosophy for having discovered and articulated the so-called “ontological argument;” and in theology for his doctrine of the atonement. However, his work extends to many other important philosophical and theological matters, among which are: understanding the aspects and the unity of the divine nature; the extent of our possible knowledge and understanding of the divine nature; the complex nature of the will and its involvement in free choice; the interworkings of human willing and action and divine grace; the natures of truth and justice; the natures and origins of virtues and vices; the nature of evil as negation or privation; and the condition and implications of original sin.
Originally printed in the May 2019 FCC Newsletter